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How to legally use a celebrity likeness

4 replies [Last post]
Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014

So, I'm working on a wrestling themed board game, and a friend of mine did some caricature drawings of wrestlers that could be in the game.

My question is, Would these images be copyright infringement? All names will be changed. For instance, instead of Macho Man Randy Savage, it would be Mucho Man Sandy Ravage. Ice Cold Steve El Paso, etc.

Any thoughts or links to other games that have done this well are greatly appreciated.

Joined: 12/27/2014
I don't know the answer to

I don't know the answer to this, but I imagine that this guy would:

He does a lot of different blog posts related to board games and legality, and seems pretty happy to help. You may get a sales pitch, but I think it's worth dropping a line.

Wanderer999's picture
Joined: 02/06/2015
Your licensing issue

Check out this game:

A number of ccelebrities used without permission and blatantly so. I don't think they got into any sort of trouble. If you ask me, its probably because the actual celebrities don't even bother. You can literally see Chow Yun Fatt, Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. The publishers only got the license for Bruce Lee and his son and that was it. They bypassed the rest.

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
This should help:

This should help:

The key point is "media can appropriate aspects of a celebrity's likeness so long as they are sufficiently combined with new and different characteristics." Personally, I do not think that your caricatures meet this criteria. Even as someone disinterested in wresting, I could readily identify each likeness. Their signature characteristics are intact without any recombination. So, for example, give Steve Austin a koala and an outback hat, and call him Steve Aussie.

Wanderer999 wrote:
A number of ccelebrities used without permission and blatantly so. I don't think they got into any sort of trouble.

Yet. Numerous kickstarters have appropriated all sorts of likenesses without permission or consequence, probably because this is such a penny-ante industry that such misappropriations remain below the radar. You could do the same. However, you don't want that axe hanging above your head. The more successful your game is, the more likely that axe will fall, and litigation is a bitch. Even a victory in court can leave your company bankrupted by legal fees. Personally, I'm waiting on the KS that proves to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, unleashing a torrent of litigation against all of these companies that thought it was okay to steal a likeness if they switched up the name a little. What I've seen in other industries is that it is more cost effective to drop the hammer of god with multiple lawsuits to set an example than to pursue individual suits on a case-by-case basis as they arise. However, if you aren't sued within six years of publication then you at least have laches as an equitable defense against injunction, and a strong case against damages since a reasonable amount of time would have passed. I'm anxiously waiting to see if Zombicide can pass that hurdle.

Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014
Thank you for the

Thank you for the input/help!

From everything I read, this is a fairly complicated issue.

1. I don't want to get sued

2. I'd like to do the right thing even if I don't get sued

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